Trump Wants to Treat Undocumented Migrants Like Enemy Combatants

Trump Wants to Treat Undocumented Migrants Like Enemy Combatants

Trump Wants to Treat Undocumented Migrants Like Enemy Combatants

But US soldiers who commit war crimes? They’re “deserving individuals” who deserve “second chances.”


According to the anonymous author of A Warning, as the number of undocumented men, women, and children crossing the US-Mexico border increased, Donald Trump proposed declaring them enemy combatants and sending them to Guantánamo Bay.

On one level, this is just more gibbering from a man who routinely spouts nonsensical—and clearly illegal—views. But on another level, it’s hugely important. For it signals that Trump is willing to turn his vast propaganda tools toward convincing his base that immigrants are “enemy combatants,” as bad and fearsome as the terrorists who attacked the World Trade Center—and that immigrants should be treated the way we treat terror suspects, many of whom were waterboarded at black sites or who continue to be held in indefinite detention at Guantánamo.

As Trump’s legal woes mount, and as the impeachment inquiry further shreds his credibility, we have to assume that he and his Fox News cheerleaders will push ever-harsher policies on immigration and other issues dear to his base. How better to distract than to throw more red meat to those already primed to view nonwhite immigrants as invaders?

Meanwhile, thousands of active-duty military and National Guard troops continue to patrol the southern border. This past Friday, four members of Congress—Barbara Lee, Judy Chu, Juan Vargas, and Raúl Grijalva—joined an alliance of community groups in calling on the Defense Department’s inspector general to open an investigation into these deployments, charging racist motivation and potential violation of the Posse Comitatus Act, which forbids military personnel from carrying out domestic law enforcement duties.

Talking of troops, in an outrageous yet all-too-predictable maneuver, also on Friday, Trump cleared three military officers either accused or convicted of murdering civilians overseas. Muslim terrorists, Mexican and Central American gang members, and other nonwhite criminals are, Trump routinely says, “animals.” But US soldiers who kill Muslim civilians in cold blood are, according to the White House statement accompanying the pardons, “deserving individuals” worthy of “second chances.” How utterly shameful.

And the Noise this week? There’s the usual vitriol from the tweeter in chief: Trump’s juvenile insults about “Shifty Schiff” and his trolling of former ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch as she testified before Congress.

Unfortunately, there’s also some ugly, anti–First Amendment cacophony coming from ostensibly progressive activists at Northwestern and Harvard universities this week. The former are claiming that a journalist who covered their protests against a Jeff Sessions appearance on campus and the response of campus police was somehow peddling “trauma porn” by reporting the news and photographing their arrests. The latter are claiming that Harvard’s college newspaper should be boycotted for getting a quote from ICE agents on a story about undocumented immigration.

Memo to the left: We don’t like it when right-wingers call the press “enemies of the people.” It’s no better when groups on the left peddle the same nonsense. Get real, and get serious. There are huge moral battles ahead. Shutting down campus newspapers is certainly not something progressives ought to associate themselves with. Free speech is free speech, and it would be an utter betrayal of the values of the open society if campus progressives were to become as intolerant of journalism as the Trumpist right.

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Katrina vanden Heuvel
Editorial Director and Publisher, The Nation

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